A major goal of the field of systems biology is to translate genome-wide profiling data (e.g., mRNAs, miRNAs) into interpretable functional networks. However, employing a systems biology approach to better understand the complexities underlying drug resistance phenotypes in cancer continues to represent a significant challenge to the field. Previously, we derived two drug-resistant breast cancer sublines (tamoxifen- and fulvestrant-resistant cell lines) from the MCF7 breast cancer cell line and performed genome-wide mRNA and microRNA profiling to identify differential molecular pathways underlying acquired resistance to these important antiestrogens. In the current study, to further define molecular characteristics of acquired antiestrogen resistance we constructed an “integrative network”. We combined joint miRNA-mRNA expression profiles, cancer contexts, miRNA-target mRNA relationships, and miRNA upstream regulators. In particular, to reduce the probability of false positive connections in the network, experimentally validated, rather than prediction-oriented, databases were utilized to obtain connectivity. Also, to improve biological interpretation, cancer contexts were incorporated into the network connectivity.
Based on the integrative network, we extracted “substructures” (network clusters) representing the drug resistant states (tamoxifen- or fulvestrant-resistance cells) compared to drug sensitive state (parental MCF7 cells). We identified un-described network clusters that contribute to antiestrogen resistance consisting of miR-146a, -27a, -145, -21, -155, -15a, -125b, and let-7s, in addition to the previously described miR-221/222.
By integrating miRNA-related network, gene/miRNA expression and text-mining, the current study provides a computational-based systems biology approach for further investigating the molecular mechanism underlying antiestrogen resistance in breast cancer cells. In addition, new miRNA clusters that contribute to antiestrogen resistance were identified, and they warrant further investigation.
Bioinformatics; miRNA; Network; Breast cancer; Antiestrogen resistance
Androgen receptor (AR) is important for prostate cancer development and progression. Genome-wide mapping of AR binding sites in prostate cancer have found that the majority of AR binding sites are located within non-promoter regions. These distal AR binding regions regulate AR target genes (e.g. UBE2C) involved in prostate cancer growth through chromatin looping. In addition to long-distance gene regulation, looping has been shown to induce spatial proximity of two genes otherwise located far away along the genomic sequence and the formation of double strand DNA breaks, resulting in aberrant gene fusions (e.g. TMPRSS2-ERG) that also contribute to prostate tumorigenesis. Elucidating the mechanisms of AR-driven chromatin looping will increase our understanding of prostate carcinogenesis and may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.
We determined the efficacy, biological activity, pharmacokinetics and safety of the hypomethylating agent 5-azacitidine (Celgene Corp., Summit, New Jersey) in dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma.
Materials and Methods
We performed a preclinical phase I trial in dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma to examine once daily subcutaneous administration of 5-azacitidine in 28-day cycles at doses of 0.10 to 0.30 mg/kg per day according to 2 dose schedules, including days 1 to 5 (28-day cohort) or days 1 to 5 and 15 to 19 (14-day cohort). Clinical efficacy was assessed by serial cystosonography, radiography and cystoscopy. Urinary 5-azacitidine pharmacokinetic analysis was also done. Pretreatment and posttreatment peripheral blood mononuclear cell and invasive urothelial carcinoma DNA, respectively, was analyzed for global and gene specific [CDKN2A (p14ARF)] methylation changes.
Enrolled in the study were 19 dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma. In the 28-day cohort the maximum tolerated dose was 0.20 mg/kg per day with higher doses resulting in grade 3 or 4 neutropenia in 4 of 6 dogs. In the 14-day cohort the maximum tolerated dose was 0.10 mg/kg per day with grade 3 or 4 neutropenia seen in 2 of 3 dogs treated at higher doses. No grade 3 or 4 nonhematological toxicity was observed during either dosing schedule. Of 18 dogs evaluable for tumor response partial remission, stable disease and progressive disease were observed in 4 (22.2%), 9 (50.0%) and 4 (22.2%), respectively. Consistent 5-azacitidine levels (205 to 857 ng/ml) were detected in urine. Pretreatment and posttreatment methylation analysis revealed no significant correlation with clinical response.
Subcutaneous 5-azacitidine showed promising clinical activity in a canine invasive urothelial carcinoma model, thus meriting further development in humans with urothelial carcinoma.
urinary bladder; urothelium; carcinoma; azacitidine; dogs
Estrogens control multiple functions of hormone-responsive breast cancer cells. They regulate diverse physiological processes in various tissues through genomic and non-genomic mechanisms that result in activation or repression of gene expression. Transcription regulation upon estrogen stimulation is a critical biological process underlying the onset and progress of the majority of breast cancer. ERα requires distinct co-regulator or modulators for efficient transcriptional regulation, and they form a regulatory network. Knowing this regulatory network will enable systematic study of the effect of ERα on breast cancer.
To investigate the regulatory network of ERα and discover novel modulators of ERα functions, we proposed an analytical method based on a linear regression model to identify translational modulators and their network relationships. In the network analysis, a group of specific modulator and target genes were selected according to the functionality of modulator and the ERα binding. Network formed from targets genes with ERα binding was called ERα genomic regulatory network; while network formed from targets genes without ERα binding was called ERα non-genomic regulatory network. Considering the active or repressive function of ERα, active or repressive function of a modulator, and agonist or antagonist effect of a modulator on ERα, the ERα/modulator/target relationships were categorized into 27 classes.
Using the gene expression data and ERα Chip-seq data from the MCF-7 cell line, the ERα genomic/non-genomic regulatory networks were built by merging ERα/ modulator/target triplets (TF, M, T), where TF refers to the ERα, M refers to the modulator, and T refers to the target. Comparing these two networks, ERα non-genomic network has lower FDR than the genomic network. In order to validate these two networks, the same network analysis was performed in the gene expression data from the ZR-75.1 cell. The network overlap analysis between two cancer cells showed 1% overlap for the ERα genomic regulatory network, but 4% overlap for the non-genomic regulatory network.
We proposed a novel approach to infer the ERα/modulator/target relationships, and construct the genomic/non-genomic regulatory networks in two cancer cells. We found that the non-genomic regulatory network is more reliable than the genomic regulatory network.
The involvement of the MET oncogene in de novo and acquired resistance of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) has been reported, but the precise mechanism by which MET overexpression contributes to TKI-resistant NSCLC remains unclear. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) negatively regulate gene expression and their dysregulation has been implicated in tumorigenesis. To understand the role of microRNAs in TKI-resistant NSCLC, we examined TK receptor-mediated microRNA changes. Here we report that miR-30b/c and miR-221/222, modulated by both EGF and MET receptors, and miR-103, -203, controlled only by MET, play important roles in gefitinib-induced apoptosis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of NSCLC cells, in vitro and in vivo, by inhibiting the expression of Bim, APAF-1, PKC-ε and SRC genes. The finding suggests that modulation of specific microRNAs may provide a therapeutic approach for future treatment of NSCLC.
Background: The organochlorine dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a known estrogen mimic and endocrine disruptor, has been linked to animal and human disorders. However, the detailed mechanism(s) by which DDT affects cellular physiology remains incompletely defined.
Objectives: We and others have shown that DDT activates cell-signaling cascades, culminating in the activation of estrogen receptor-dependent and -independent gene expression. Here, we identify a mechanism by which DDT alters cellular signaling and gene expression, independent of the estrogen receptor.
Methods: We performed quantitative polymerase chain reaction array analysis of gene expression in MCF-7 breast cancer cells using either estradiol (E2) or o,p´-DDT to identify distinct cellular gene expression responses. To elucidate the mechanisms by which DDT regulates cell signaling, we used molecular and pharmacological techniques.
Results: E2 and DDT treatment both altered the expression of many of the genes assayed, but up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) was observed only after DDT treatment, and this increase was not affected by the pure estrogen receptor α antagonist ICI 182780. Furthermore, DDT increased activation of the HIF-1 response element (HRE), a known enhancer of the VEGFA gene. This DDT-mediated increase in HRE activity was augmented by the coactivator CBP (CREB-binding protein) and was dependent on the p38 pathway.
Conclusions: DDT up-regulated the expression of several genes in MCF-7 breast cancer cells that were not altered by treatment with E2, including VEGFA. We propose that this DDT-initiated, ER-independent stimulation of gene expression is due to DDT’s ability to initiate crosstalk between MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) signaling pathways and transcriptional coactivators.
breast cancer; CBP; coactivator; crosstalk; DDT; dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane; endocrine-disrupting chemical; HIF-1α; MAPK; organochlorine; p38 kinase; vascular endothelial growth factor
A number of empirical Bayes models (each with different statistical distribution assumptions) have now been developed to analyze differential DNA methylation using high-density oligonucleotide tiling arrays. However, it remains unclear which model performs best. For example, for analysis of differentially methylated regions for conservative and functional sequence characteristics (e.g., enrichment of transcription factor-binding sites (TFBSs)), the sensitivity of such analyses, using various empirical Bayes models, remains unclear. In this paper, five empirical Bayes models were constructed, based on either a gamma distribution or a log-normal distribution, for the identification of differential methylated loci and their cell division—(1, 3, and 5) and drug-treatment-(cisplatin) dependent methylation patterns. While differential methylation patterns generated by log-normal models were enriched with numerous TFBSs, we observed almost no TFBS-enriched sequences using gamma assumption models. Statistical and biological results suggest log-normal, rather than gamma, empirical Bayes model distribution to be a highly accurate and precise method for differential methylation microarray analysis. In addition, we presented one of the log-normal models for differential methylation analysis and tested its reproducibility by simulation study. We believe this research to be the first extensive comparison of statistical modeling for the analysis of differential DNA methylation, an important biological phenomenon that precisely regulates gene transcription.
Pemetrexed (ALIMTA) is a folate anti-metabolite that has been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and has been shown to stimulate autophagy. In the present study, we sought to further understand the role of autophagy in the response to pemetrexed and to test if combination therapy could enhance the level of toxicity through altered autophagy in tumor cells. The multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib (NEXAVAR), used in the treatment of renal and hepatocellular carcinoma, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and promotes autophagy in tumor cells. We found that sorafenib interacted in a greater than additive fashion with pemetrexed to increase autophagy and to kill a diverse array of tumor cell types. Tumor cell types that displayed high levels of cell killing after combination treatment showed elevated levels of AKT, p70 S6K and/or phosphorylated mTOR, in addition to Class III RTKs such as PDGFRβ and VEGFR1, known in vivo targets of sorafenib. In xenograft and in syngeneic animal models of mammary carcinoma and glioblastoma, the combination of sorafenib and pemetrexed suppressed tumor growth without deleterious effects on normal tissues or animal body mass. Taken together, the data suggest that premexetred and sorafenib act synergistically to enhance tumor killing via the promotion of a toxic form of autophagy that leads to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, and predict that combination treatment represents a future therapeutic option in the treatment of solid tumors.
Potential epigenetic mechanisms underlying fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) include alcohol-induced alterations of methyl metabolism, resulting in aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and gene expression during development. Having previously demonstrated an essential role for epigenetics in neural stem cell (NSC) development and that inhibiting DNA methylation prevents NSC differentiation, here we investigated the effect of alcohol exposure on genome-wide DNA methylation patterns and NSC differentiation.
NSCs in culture were treated with or without a 6-hr 88mM (“binge-like”) alcohol exposure and examined at 48 hrs, for migration, growth, and genome-wide DNA methylation. The DNA methylation was examined using DNA-methylation immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) followed by microarray analysis. Further validation was performed using Independent Sequenom analysis.
NSC differentiated in 24 to 48 hrs with migration, neuronal expression, and morphological transformation. Alcohol exposure retarded the migration, neuronal formation, and growth processes of NSC, similar to treatment with the methylation inhibitor 5-aza-cytidine. When NSC departed from the quiescent state, a genome-wide diversification of DNA methylation was observed—that is, many moderately methylated genes altered methylation levels and became hyper- and hypomethylated. Alcohol prevented many genes from such diversification, including genes related to neural development, neuronal receptors, and olfaction, while retarding differentiation. Validation of specific genes by Sequenom analysis demonstrated that alcohol exposure prevented methylation of specific genes associated with neural development [cutl2 (cut-like 2), Igf1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Efemp1 (epidermal growth factor-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1), and Sox 7 (SRY-box containing gene 7)]; eye development, Lim 2 (lens intrinsic membrane protein 2); the epigenetic mark Smarca2 (SWI/SNF related, matrix associated, actin dependent regulator of chromatin, subfamily a, member 2); and developmental disorder [Dgcr2 (DiGeorge syndrome critical region gene 2)]. Specific sites altered by DNA methylation also correlated with transcription factor binding sites known to be critical for regulating neural development.
The data indicate that alcohol prevents normal DNA methylation programming of key neural stem cell genes and retards NSC differentiation. Thus, the role of DNA methylation in FAS warrants further investigation.
Epigenetics; Epigenomics; MeDIP-Chip; Neural development; Fetal alcohol syndrome
It is now established that, as compared to normal cells, the cancer cell genome has an overall inverse distribution of DNA methylation (“methylome”), i.e., predominant hypomethylation and localized hypermethylation, within “CpG islands” (CGIs). Moreover, although cancer cells have reduced methylation “fidelity” and genomic instability, accurate maintenance of aberrant methylomes that underlie malignant phenotypes remains necessary. However, the mechanism(s) of cancer methylome maintenance remains largely unknown. Here, we assessed CGI methylation patterns propagated over 1, 3, and 5 divisions of A2780 ovarian cancer cells, concurrent with exposure to the DNA cross-linking chemotherapeutic cisplatin, and observed cell generation-successive increases in total hyper- and hypo-methylated CGIs. Empirical Bayesian modeling revealed five distinct modes of methylation propagation: (1) heritable (i.e., unchanged) high- methylation (1186 probe loci in CGI microarray); (2) heritable (i.e., unchanged) low-methylation (286 loci); (3) stochastic hypermethylation (i.e., progressively increased, 243 loci); (4) stochastic hypomethylation (i.e., progressively decreased, 247 loci); and (5) considerable “random” methylation (582 loci). These results support a “stochastic model” of DNA methylation equilibrium deriving from the efficiency of two distinct processes, methylation maintenance and de novo methylation. A role for cis-regulatory elements in methylation fidelity was also demonstrated by highly significant (p<2.2×10−5) enrichment of transcription factor binding sites in CGI probe loci showing heritably high (118 elements) and low (47 elements) methylation, and also in loci demonstrating stochastic hyper-(30 elements) and hypo-(31 elements) methylation. Notably, loci having “random” methylation heritability displayed nearly no enrichment. These results demonstrate an influence of cis-regulatory elements on the nonrandom propagation of both strictly heritable and stochastically heritable CGIs.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a member of the ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases. This family includes EGFR/ErbB1/HER1, ErbB2/HER2/Neu ErbB3/HER3, and ErbB4/HER4. For many years it was believed that EGFR plays a minor role in the development and progression of breast malignancies. However, recent findings have led investigators to revisit these beliefs. Here we will review these findings and propose roles that EGFR may play in breast malignancies. In particular, we will discuss the potential roles that EGFR may play in triple-negative tumors, resistance to endocrine therapies, maintenance of stem-like tumor cells, and bone metastasis. Thus, we will propose the contexts in which EGFR may be a therapeutic target.
Epidermal growth factor receptor; Resistance to endocrine therapy; Bone metastasis; Triple-negative tumors; Stem-like tumor cells
“Epigenetic plasticity” refers to the capability of mammalian cells to alter their differentiation status via chromatin remodeling-associated alterations in gene expression. While epigenetic plasticity has been best associated with lineage commitment of embryonic stem cells, recent studies have demonstrated chromatin remodeling even in terminally differentiated normal cells and advanced-stage melanoma and breast cancer cells, in context-dependent responses to alterations in their microenvironment. In the current study, we extend this attribute of epigenetic plasticity to aggressive ovarian cancer cells, by using an integrative approach to associate cellular phenotypes with chromatin modifications (“ChIP-chip”) and mRNA and microRNA expression. While we identified numerous gene promoters possessing the well-known “bivalent mark” of H3K27me3/H3K4me2, we also report 14 distinct, lesser known bi-, tri- and tetravalent combinations of activating and repressive chromatin modifications, in platinum-resistant CP 70 ovarian cancer cells. The vast majority (>90%) of all the histone marks studied localized to regions within 2,000 bp of transcription start sites, supporting a role in gene regulation. Upon a simple alteration in the microenvironment, transition from two- to three-dimensional culture, an increase (17–38%) in repressive-only marked promoters was observed, concomitant with a decrease (31–21%) in multivalent (i.e., juxtaposed permissive and repressive histone marked) promoters. Like embryonic/tissue stem and other (non-ovarian) carcinoma cells, ovarian cancer cell epigenetic plasticity reflects an inherent transcriptional flexibility for context-responsive alterations in phenotype. It is possible that this plasticity could be therapeutically exploited for the management of this lethal gynecologic malignancy.
histone modifications; gene expression; chromatin remodeling; ovarian cancer; epigenetic plasticity; tumor microenvironment; bivalent histone mark
Pemetrexed (ALIMTA) is a folate anti-metabolite that has been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and has been shown to stimulate autophagy. In the present study, we sought to further understand the role of autophagy in the response to pemetrexed and to test if combination therapy could enhance the level of toxicity through altered autophagy in tumor cells. The multikinase inhibitor sorafenib (NEXAVAR), used in the treatment of renal and hepatocellular carcinoma, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and promotes autophagy in tumor cells. We found that sorafenib interacted in a greater than additive fashion with pemetrexed to increase autophagy and to kill a diverse array of tumor cell types. Tumor cell types that displayed high levels of cell killing after combination treatment showed elevated levels of AKT, p70 S6K and/or phosphorylated mTOR, in addition to class III RTKs such as PDGFRβ and VEGFR1, known in vivo targets of sorafenib. In xenograft and in syngeneic animal models of mammary carcinoma and glioblastoma, the combination of sorafenib and pemetrexed suppressed tumor growth without deleterious effects on normal tissues or animal body mass. Taken together, the data suggest that premexetred and sorafenib act synergistically to enhance tumor killing via the promotion of a toxic form of autophagy that leads to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, and predict that combination treatment represents a future therapeutic option in the treatment of solid tumors.
pemetrexed; sorafenib; autophagy; apoptosis; PDGFR; ZMP; AMP; thymidylate synthase
Aberrant DNA methylation is a hallmark of cancer and DNA methyltransferase inhibitors have demonstrated clinical efficacy in hematologic malignancies. Based on preclinical studies indicating that hypomethylating agents can reverse platinum resistance in ovarian cancer cells, we conducted a phase I trial of low dose decitabine combined with carboplatin, in patients with recurrent, platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.
Decitabine was administered i.v. daily for five days, prior to carboplatin (AUC 5) on day 8 of a 28-day cycle. Using a standard 3+3 dose escalation decitabine was tested at two dose levels: 10 mg/m2 (seven patients) or 20 mg/m2 (three patients). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and plasma collected on days 1 (pre-treatment), 5, 8, and 15, were utilized to assess global (LINE-1 repetitive element) and gene-specific DNA methylation.
Dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) at the 20 mg/m2 dose was grade 4 neutropenia (2 patients) and no DLTs were observed at 10 mg/m2. Most common toxicities were nausea, allergic reactions, neutropenia, fatigue, anorexia, vomiting, and abdominal pain, the majority being grades 1-2. One complete response was observed, and three additional patients had stable disease for ≥ six months. LINE-1 hypomethylation on days 8 and 15 was detected in DNA from PBMCs. Of five ovarian cancer-associated methylated genes, HOXA11 and BRCA1 were demethylated in plasma on days 8 and 15.
Repetitive low-dose decitabine is tolerated when combined with carboplatin in ovarian cancer patients, and demonstrates biological (i.e., DNA-hypomethylating) activity justifying further testing for clinical efficacy.
ovarian cancer; decitabine; epigenetic biomarkers; chemosensitization; platinum resistance
Deregulation of the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signaling pathway in epithelial ovarian cancer has been reported, but the precise mechanism underlying disrupted TGFβ signaling in the disease remains unclear. We performed chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq) to investigate genome-wide screening of TGFβ-induced SMAD4 binding in epithelial ovarian cancer. Following TGFβ stimulation of the A2780 epithelial ovarian cancer cell line, we identified 2,362 SMAD4 binding loci and 318 differentially expressed SMAD4 target genes. Comprehensive examination of SMAD4-bound loci, revealed four distinct binding patterns: 1) Basal; 2) Shift; 3) Stimulated Only; 4) Unstimulated Only. TGFβ stimulated SMAD4-bound loci were primarily classified as either Stimulated only (74%) or Shift (25%), indicating that TGFβ-stimulation alters SMAD4 binding patterns in epithelial ovarian cancer cells. Furthermore, based on gene regulatory network analysis, we determined that the TGFβ-induced, SMAD4-dependent regulatory network was strikingly different in ovarian cancer compared to normal cells. Importantly, the TGFβ/SMAD4 target genes identified in the A2780 epithelial ovarian cancer cell line were predictive of patient survival, based on in silico mining of publically available patient data bases. In conclusion, our data highlight the utility of next generation sequencing technology to identify genome-wide SMAD4 target genes in epithelial ovarian cancer and link aberrant TGFβ/SMAD signaling to ovarian tumorigenesis. Furthermore, the identified SMAD4 binding loci, combined with gene expression profiling and in silico data mining of patient cohorts, may provide a powerful approach to determine potential gene signatures with biological and future translational research in ovarian and other cancers.
Several lines of evidence have suggested that estrogen receptor α (ERα)–negative breast tumors, which are highly aggressive and nonresponsive to hormonal therapy, arise from ERα-positive precursors through different molecular pathways. Because microRNAs (miRNAs) modulate gene expression, we hypothesized that they may have a role in ER-negative tumor formation.
Gene expression profiles were used to highlight the global changes induced by miRNA modulation of ERα protein. miRNA transfection and luciferase assays enabled us to identify new targets of miRNA 206 (miR-206) and miRNA cluster 221-222 (miR-221-222). Northern blot, luciferase assays, estradiol treatment, and chromatin immunoprecipitation were performed to identify the miR-221-222 transcription unit and the mechanism implicated in its regulation.
Different global changes in gene expression were induced by overexpression of miR-221-222 and miR-206 in ER-positive cells. miR-221 and -222 increased proliferation of ERα-positive cells, whereas miR-206 had an inhibitory effect (mean absorbance units [AU]: miR-206: 500 AU, 95% confidence interval [CI]) = 480 to 520; miR-221: 850 AU, 95% CI = 810 to 873; miR-222: 879 AU, 95% CI = 850 to 893; P < .05). We identified hepatocyte growth factor receptor and forkhead box O3 as new targets of miR-206 and miR-221-222, respectively. We demonstrated that ERα negatively modulates miR-221 and -222 through the recruitment of transcriptional corepressor partners: nuclear receptor corepressor and silencing mediator of retinoic acid and thyroid hormone receptor.
These findings suggest that the negative regulatory loop involving miR-221-222 and ERα may confer proliferative advantage and migratory activity to breast cancer cells and promote the transition from ER-positive to ER-negative tumors.
Membrane receptors for steroid hormones are currently a subject of considerable debate. One approach to selectively target these putative receptors has been to couple ligands to substances that restrict cell permeability. Using this approach, an analog of the estrogen receptor ligand 4-hydroxytamoxifen was attached to fluorescent dyes with differing degrees of predicted cell permeability. The conjugates bound to estrogen receptor in vitro, but all three conjugates, including one predicted to be cell-impermeable, inhibited estradiol-induced transcriptional activation. Fluorescence microscopy revealed cytoplasmic localization for all three conjugates. We further characterized a 4-hydroxytamoxifen analog conjugated to a BODIPY fluorophore in breast cancer cell lines. Those experiments suggested a similar, but not identical, mode of action to 4-hydroxytamoxifen, as the fluorescent conjugate was equally effective at inhibiting proliferation of both tamoxifen-sensitive and tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cell lines. While these findings point to significant complicating factors in designing steroid hormone mimics targeted to the plasma membrane, the results also reveal a possible new direction for designing estrogen receptor modulators.
Epigenetic drugs have been shown to enhance gene expression and drug sensitivity in ovarian cancer cell lines and animal models. Based on promising pre-clinical studies, DNA methylation inhibitors in combination with existing chemotherapeutic agents have the potential for overcoming acquired drug resistance, laying the foundation for this specific class of epigenetic drug in ovarian cancer clinical trials. The recent completion of phase I trials of decitabine have yielded important information on dosing schedules and biological endpoints for evaluating patient responses. In addition, epigenetic drug effects on pharmacodyamic targets are beginning to emerge, and predictive epigenetic biomarkers and next generation epigenome therapeutics are being developed for application in clinical settings for ovarian cancer patients.
Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα)-positive breast cancers that co-express trans cription factors GATA-3 and FOXA1 have a favorable prognosis. These transcription factors form an autoregulatory hormonal network that influences estrogen responsiveness and sensitivity to hormonal therapy. Disruption of this network may be a mechanism whereby ERα positive breast cancers become resistant to therapy. The transcription factor T-bet is a negative regulator of GATA-3 in the immune system. In this study, we report that insulin increases the expression of T-bet in breast cancer cells, which correlates with reduced expression of GATA-3, FOXA1 and the ERα:FOXA1:GATA-3 target gene GREB-1. The effects of insulin on GATA-3 and FOXA1 could be recapitulated through overexpression of T-bet in MCF-7 cells (MCF-7-T-bet). Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed reduced ERα binding to GREB-1 enhancer regions in MCF-7-T-bet cells and in insulin treated MCF-7 cells. MCF-7-T-bet cells were resistant to tamoxifen in the presence of insulin and displayed prolonged ERK and AKT activation in response to epidermal growth factor treatment. ERα-positive cells with intrinsic tamoxifen resistance as well as MCF-7 cells with acquired tamoxifen and fulvestrant resistance expressed elevated levels of T-bet and/or reduced levels of FOXA1 and GATA-3. Analysis of publicly available databases revealed ERα-positive/T-bet-positive breast cancers expressing lower levels of FOXA1 (p=0.0137) and GATA-3 (p=0.0063) compared to ERα-positive/T-bet-negative breast cancers. Thus, T-bet expression in primary tumors and circulating insulin levels may serve as surrogate biomarkers to identify ERα-positive breast cancers with a dysfunctional hormonal network, enhanced growth factor signaling, and resistance to hormonal therapy.
estrogen receptor; GATA-3; FOXA1; T-bet; breast cancer
The nuclear transcription factor estrogen receptor alpha (ER-alpha) is the target of several antiestrogen therapeutic agents for breast cancer. However, many ER-alpha positive patients do not respond to these treatments from the beginning, or stop responding after being treated for a period of time. Because of the association of gene transcription alteration and drug resistance and the emerging evidence on the role of DNA methylation on transcription regulation, understanding of these relationships can facilitate development of approaches to re-sensitize breast cancer cells to treatment by restoring DNA methylation patterns.
We constructed a hierarchical empirical Bayes model to investigate the simultaneous change of gene expression and promoter DNA methylation profiles among wild type (WT) and OHT/ICI resistant MCF7 breast cancer cell lines.
We found that compared with the WT cell lines, almost all of the genes in OHT or ICI resistant cell lines either do not show methylation change or hypomethylated. Moreover, the correlations between gene expression and methylation are quite heterogeneous across genes, suggesting the involvement of other factors in regulating transcription. Analysis of our results in combination with H3K4me2 data on OHT resistant cell lines suggests a clear interplay between DNA methylation and H3K4me2 in the regulation of gene expression. For hypomethylated genes with alteration of gene expression, most (~80%) are up-regulated, consistent with current view on the relationship between promoter methylation and gene expression.
We developed an empirical Bayes model to study the association between DNA methylation in the promoter region and gene expression. Our approach generates both global (across all genes) and local (individual gene) views of the interplay. It provides important insight on future effort to develop therapeutic agent to re-sensitize breast cancer cells to treatment.
MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs involved in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Due to the poor annotation of primary microRNA (pri-microRNA) transcripts, the precise location of promoter regions driving expression of many microRNA genes is enigmatic. This deficiency hinders our understanding of microRNA-mediated regulatory networks. In this study, we develop a computational approach to identify the promoter region and transcription start site (TSS) of pri-microRNAs actively transcribed using genome-wide RNA Polymerase II (RPol II) binding patterns derived from ChIP-seq data. Based upon the assumption that the distribution of RPol II binding patterns around the TSS of microRNA and protein coding genes are similar, we designed a statistical model to mimic RPol II binding patterns around the TSS of highly expressed, well-annotated promoter regions of protein coding genes. We used this model to systematically scan the regions upstream of all intergenic microRNAs for RPol II binding patterns similar to those of TSS from protein coding genes. We validated our findings by examining the conservation, CpG content, and activating histone marks in the identified promoter regions. We applied our model to assess changes in microRNA transcription in steroid hormone-treated breast cancer cells. The results demonstrate many microRNA genes have lost hormone-dependent regulation in tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells. MicroRNA promoter identification based upon RPol II binding patterns provides important temporal and spatial measurements regarding the initiation of transcription, and therefore allows comparison of transcription activities between different conditions, such as normal and disease states.
The present studies have examined approaches to suppress MCL-1 function in breast cancer cells, as a means to promote tumor cell death. Treatment of breast cancer cells with CDK inhibitors (flavopiridol; roscovitine) enhanced the lethality of the ERBB1 inhibitor lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. CDK inhibitors interacted with lapatinib to reduce MCL-1 expression and overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed drug combination lethality. Lapatinib-mediated inhibition of ERK1/2 and to a lesser extent AKT facilitated CDK inhibitor-induced suppression of MCL-1 levels. Treatment of cells with the BH3 domain/MCL-1 inhibitor obatoclax enhanced the lethality of lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. Knock out of MCL-1 and BCL-XL enhanced lapatinib toxicity to a similar extent as obatoclax and suppressed the ability of obatoclax to promote lapatinib lethality. Pre-treatment of cells with lapatinib or with obatoclax enhanced basal levels of BAX and BAK activity and further enhanced drug combination toxicity. In vivo tumor growth data in xenograft and syngeneic model systems confirmed our in vitro findings. Treatment of cells with CDK inhibitors enhanced the lethality of obatoclax in a synergistic fashion. Overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed the toxic interaction between CDK inhibitors and obatoclax. Obatoclax and lapatinib treatment or obatoclax and CDK inhibitor treatment or lapatinib and CDK inhibitor treatment radiosensitized breast cancer cells. Lapatinib and obatoclax interacted to suppress mammary tumor growth in vivo. Collectively our data demonstrate that manipulation of MCL-1 protein expression by CDK inhibition or inhibition of MCL-1 sequestering function by Obatoclax renders breast cancer cells more susceptible to BAX/BAK-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and tumor cell death.
MCL-1; Lapatinib; Obatoclax; Flavopiridol; Roscovitine; CDK inhibitor; RTK inhibitor; BCL-2 inhibitor; BAK
Ovarian cancer ranks the most lethal among gynecologic neoplasms in women. To develop potential bio-markers for diagnosis, we have identified five novel genes (CYP39A1, GTF2A1, FOXD4L4, EBP, and HAAO) that are hypermethylated in ovarian tumors, compared with the non-malignant normal ovarian surface epithelia, using the quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reactions. Interestingly enough, multivariate Cox regression analysis has identified hypermethylation of CYP39A1 correlated with an increase rate of relapsing (P=0.032, hazard ratio >1). Concordant hypermethylation in at least three loci was observed in 50 out of 55 (91%) of ovarian tumors examined. The test sensitivity and specificity were assessed to be 96 and 67% for CYP39A1; 95 and 88% for GTF2A1; 93 and 67% for FOXD4L4; 81 and 67% for EBP; 89 and 82% for HAAO, respectively. Our data have identified, for the first time, GTF2A1 alone, or GTF2A1 plus HAAO are excellent candidate biomarkers for detecting this disease. Moreover, the known functions of these gene products further implicate dys-regulated transcriptional control, cholesterol metabolism, or synthesis of quinolinic acids, may play important roles in attributing to ovarian neoplasm. Molecular therapies, by reversing the aberrant epigenomes using inhibitory agents or by abrogating the upstream signaling pathways that convey the epigenomic perturbations, may be developed into promising treatment regimens.
ovarian cancer; epigenetics; DNA methylation; biomarkers; quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction
Death-associated protein kinase (DAPK) has been found associated with HSP90, and inhibition of HSP90 with 17-alkyl-amino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin reduced expression of DAPK. These results were extended to determine whether the degradation of DAPK in the absence of HSP90 activity is dependent on the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Our results show that treatment of cells with geldanamycin (GA) leads to degradation of DAPK, and this degradation is attenuated by the proteasome inhibitor, lactacystin. GA-induced DAPK degradation is also dependent on phosphorylation of DAPK at Ser308, and the cellular levels of phospho(Ser308)-DAPK dramatically increase in response to GA treatment. Expression of two distinct ubiquitin E3 ligases, carboxyl terminus of HSC70-interacting protein (CHIP) or DIP1/Mib1, enhanced DAPK degradation, and conversely, short interfering RNA depletion of either CHIP or DIP1/Mib1 attenuated DAPK degradation. In vitro ubiquitination assays confirmed that DAPK is targeted for ubiquitination by both CHIP and DIP. Consistent with these results, DAPK is found in two distinct immune complexes, one containing HSP90 and CHIP and a second complex containing only DIP1/Mib. Collectively, these results indicate that strict modulation of DAPK activities is critical for regulation of apoptosis and cellular homeostasis.
Motivation: Recent evidence shows significant involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the initiation and progression of numerous cancers; however, the role of these in tumor drug resistance remains unknown.
Results: By comparing global miRNA and mRNA expression patterns, we examined the role of miRNAs in resistance to the ‘pure antiestrogen’ fulvestrant, using fulvestrant-resistant MCF7-FR cells and their drug-sensitive parental estrogen receptor (ER)-positive MCF7 cells. We identified 14 miRNAs downregulated in MCF7-FR cells and then used both TargetScan and PITA to predict potential target genes. We found a negative correlation between expression of these miRNAs and their predicted target mRNA transcripts. In genes regulated by multiple miRNAs or having multiple miRNA-targeting sites, an even stronger negative correlation was found. Pathway analyses predicted these miRNAs to regulate specific cancer-associated signal cascades. These results suggest a significant role for miRNA-regulated gene expression in the onset of breast cancer antiestrogen resistance, and an improved understanding of this phenomenon could lead to better therapies for this often fatal condition.
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Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.